This essay was originally published in Symbiosis: A Journal of Anglo-American Literary Relations, Volume 13.2 (October 2009)
From this Essay:
The moment in August 1912 when Ezra Pound scribbled the words ‘H.D. Imagiste’ at the bottom of a page of Hilda Doolittle’s poems has passed into literary myth. There are various accounts, and even more interpretations, of the event.1 But whether this is read as an indication of his founding genius in recognising a poetic talent which might otherwise have gone unnoticed, or simply an example of Pound’s attempts to assert control over his erstwhile fiancée, in all versions the setting is consistent. Imagism, a key ‘movement’ of early twentieth-century literature, is born at a meeting of two American expatriates, H.D. and Pound, along with H.D.’s English fiancé Richard Aldington, in a tearoom in London.2 Indeed, the apparent centrality of this event to narratives of H.D.’s life is signalled in the decision made by one of her biographers, Janice Robinson, to call the first section of her story of H.D.’s life ‘The Tea Room’.3
Unsurprising perhaps that this encounter took place in a tearoom; London in the early twentieth century was full of teashops. Scott McCracken’s recent work on the teashop in modernist literature has demonstrated just how crucial this location was not only to the modernist imagination, but in practical terms to the urbanites of the period, offering a space ‘in which new forms of social relations and new forms of intersubjectivity could come into being’.
About the author
Affiliation: University of Glasgow